An Iditarod dog died Friday after it was buried and suffocated in snow, officials said. The sled dog, a 5-year-old male husky named Dorado, was left at a checkpoint in Unalakleet, Alaska by musher Paige Drobny when the accident occurred.
The Iditarod sled race, widely known for the grueling crossing of the Alaskan tundra by sled dog, involves mushers traveling with up to 16 dogs. As some tire though, owners leave them behind at checkpoints for the night. Drobny left Dorado by the Bering Sea Strait checkpoint because of sore muscles, and was checked on in the night.
"Between [3 a.m.] and daylight, drifting snow covered several dogs and Dorado was found to be deceased," race marshal Mark Nordman said in a statement. The death marks the first the famous race has experienced since 2009.
"The entire Iditarod family is mourning this loss. We ask that you support Paige and her family during this difficult time," the statement continued.
The necropsy- an autopsy for an animal- revealed the official cause of death to be asphyxiation.
Dorado had been dropped off Monday, and was supposed to be flown back to Anchorage with a group of other dogs. The trip was delayed, however, by inclement weather.
Before finding out what the dog's official cause of death was, Cody Strathe, Drobny's husband, said that the news had hit the couple hard. Dorado had raced in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race last year, according to reports.
"We are awaiting results of the official necropsy as we do not know what occurred, but are deeply saddened," Strathe said in an email to the Associated Press.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which began March 2, was won by Mitch Seavey last week Tuesday. Drobny completed the 1,000-mile race in 34th out of 66 teams.